Tourism levels in the North East soared last year with three major attractions in Aberdeenshire posting increased visitor numbers of up to 134.5 per cent.
Figures released by the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (ALVA) show that an incredible 97,565 visited Crathes Castle in 2016 – up from 42,311 in 2015 – a upturn of 134.5 per cent in 12 months.
Drum Castle in Banchory saw an increase of 87.5 per cent with 21,919 more visitors in 2016 (47,037) than in 2015 (25,118), while Ellon’s Pitmedden Gardens saw an upsurge of 112.5 per cent to attract 33,095 visitors.
With the National Trust For Scotland (NTS) reporting a national increase of 7 per cent, leading figures in the North East have welcomed the news that the tourism industry in Aberdeenshire is booming.
Stuart Donaldson, MP for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine, said: “The upsurge in visitor numbers to Crathes and Drum Castle is incredible. As the slogan goes, we are ‘Scotland’s Castle Country.’ With 19, we have more castles per acre than anywhere else in the UK.
“Visit Scotland have done some fantastic work in driving up tourism within Aberdeenshire by creating
a castle trail and their project is clearly working. Scotland is a beautiful country and the economic benefits of tourism, both from a local and national perspective, cannot be underplayed.”
Aberdeenshire East MSP Gillian Martin is also thrilled with the news that Pitmedden Gardens is drawing the crowds back in.
The Great Garden is said to date back to 1675 when it was originally laid out by Sir Alexander Seton. It was re-created in the 1950s based on 17th-centure plans of the gardens at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh.
Gillian said: “The North East has an abundance of tourist attractions which many people simply do not know about.
“It’s great to see a boost in visitor numbers of more than 100 per cent. Pitmedden Garden is one of my constituency’s best kept secrets and it is brilliant that more and more people are discovering this hidden treasure.”
Iain Hawkins, the National Trust for Scotland’s general manager for North East Scotland, said: “It has been good to see visitor numbers increase across all NTS properties by around 7 per cent in the last year.
“Improvements in the North East though have been pretty exceptional. This is due to a range of factors but for Drum and Crathes Castles in particular, our events programming has definitely played a part.
“We are giving more people more opportunities to come back regularly to enjoy their heritage through one-off events and seasonal programming, notably at Easter and Halloween. In the case of Drum, the fact that we are hosting some of Aberdeen Art Gallery’s collections during its refurbishment has attracted many people out to see this fabulous, historic property.
“The heritage of the North East is truly exceptional and it is great to see so many people coming out to enjoy it.”